Air Clean Up

Should Wood-Burners Be Banned?

Oct 11 2017 Comments 0

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has responded to the city’s seventh emergency air quality alert in just 13 months with a plea to the government to give him more powers in curbing air pollution. Specifically, Khan has targeted wood-burning stoves and construction as the focal points of his strategy in bringing London’s runaway air quality crisis under control.

Khan wrote last week to Michael Gove, the government’s Secretary for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). In his missive, Khan asked Gove to amend the Clean Air Act and give London (and other cities, as well) the power to ban wood-burning stoves and impose minimum emissions limits on heavy duty construction machinery.

The rise and rise of the wood-burner

Over recent years, wood-burning stoves have become an increasingly popular option in households. Initially marketed by some companies as a green alternative to other methods of heating, millions of Britons now have the units in their home.

There are currently 1.5 million of the stoves across the country, with the majority of these concentrated in the southeast of England. Here, 16% of the populace own a wood-burner; nationally, that figure falls to just 5%.

However, recently conducted research from London King’s College has concluded that wood combustion is a major source of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5), with studies claiming that nearly a third (31%) of all PM2.5 pollution in the capital is caused by stoves. PM2.5 is believed to be one of the worst offending pollutants, linked with diverse conditions such as diabetes, autism and depression, as well as a whole host of cardiac and respiratory complaints.

Khan seeks action

In response, Khan has attempted to make serious strides in the fight against air pollution in his city by proposing a ban on the use of the stoves in urban areas suffering from particularly poor air quality. Khan also advocated bringing forward the date for the prohibition of all but the newest, cleanest stoves, a law which had been earmarked for 2022.

An outcry from thousands of London residents who had been led to believe that the wood-burners were helping the environment instead of hindering it has caused Khan to clarify his proposals. He now claims the ban would not apply to householders but rather commercial locations (such as restaurants and hotels) and that it would only be enforced on days with particularly poor air quality.

He has also sought to tighten up legislation surrounding construction emissions. Compared with the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) which applies to power plants and factories, the regulations surrounding diggers, bulldozers and the suchlike is positively lax, argues Khan. He plans to introduce new limits on emissions and a database of machinery to help enforce those limits.

While an outright ban on wood-burners now seems highly unlikely, the evidence against the contaminating units is steadily mounting. All but the cleanest machines may have their days numbered - measured in the years, rather than decades, if Khan has his way.

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